I was amazed at the level of deference and respect our President offered the President of the People’s Republic of China today. Aren’t we supposedly against authoritarian regimes. Isn’t the Chinese government, you know, Communist? Of course we ought to be polite, and of course China is a huge nation with a huge military and huge trade with us. I don’t mean to say that we should try to worsen relations at all. But a 21-gun salute? Come on.
Or, as the Washington Post puts it:
With annoying questions excluded, the focus today is likely to be just where Mr. Hu wants it, on his discussion of strategic issues with Mr. Bush; the visual will be his 21-gun salute. Never mind that according to Mr. Bush’s doctrine, respect for human rights is directly connected to the ability of states to be strategic partners of the United States. “Governments that brutalize their people,” says the president’s new national security strategy, “also threaten the peace and stability of other nations.” News conference question for Mr. Bush: Does that logic not apply to China?
China is a systematic abuser of human rights and civil liberties, for heaven’s sake. What does a 21-gun salute–from the United States!–say to imprisoned journalists in China? We are supposed to stand up and tell the communists, fascists, totalitiarians, and dictators of the world that their systems are evil, and that they must be changed. John F. Kennedy knew that, and so did Ronald Reagan, as Larry Johnson of TPMCafe points out:
Years ago we watched in amazement as a small Chinese man stood in the path of a tank in Tinamen Square to protest abuses by the Chinese Communist state. Today we saw our President apologize to the Chinese for allowing a protester to speak her mind. What next George? Will you help the Chinese run over demonstrators in a tank?
President Reagan spoke of a City on a Hill. That City was to be a beacon of hope and inspiration to the people of the world who yearned for freedom. George Bush has now torched that vision. Mr. President, I knew Ronald Reagan. I worked for Ronald Reagan. Mr. President, you are no Reagan.
Practically, we must retain good relations with China, because we’re deep, deep in the hole to them financially, our citizens can’t get enough of their cheap goods, and they have lots of big weapons. Fine. Let’s be nice to them. Let’s be civil. But let’s not give them all this deference and congratulation until they’ve done something to earn it. Not torturing prisoners would be a good start, as would releasing imprisoned journalists.